Car makers target UK fleet market in 2011

The BMW 3-Series, Audi A6 and Jaguar XF are cars which immediately spring to mind when thinking about the type of cars UK businesses choose for their fleets.

These premium executive motors offer high levels of equipment, comfort on those long motorway journeys and a certain respectability.

However, company car tax and high petrol prices in recent years means the new, more upmarket Ford Mondeo saloon and estate has stolen a march on its rivals. Lower prices and lower running costs in a package which is both high quality and good-looking has propelled Ford’s flagship to the top of the fleet sales charts.

The likes of the Volkswagen Passat and Vauxhall Insignia have also benefitted from the need to downsize in the past 12 months.

However, 2011 could see another shift in the fleet sector – because Asian brand’s are waking up to the potential of the UK fleet and business market.

In 2010, the fleet market grew by ten per cent in the UK, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. This is a growing market, and it seems two Asian manufacturers in particular are keen to exploit it.

Mazda has always been known for stylish cars that offer steering and comfort above and beyond volume manufacturer rivals.

The Japanese brand has focused on upgrading equipment and build quality in its Mazda6 saloon to appeal to fleet customers in 2011.

In 2010, the Mazda6 grew in popularity. Analysis of the top ten largest UK contract hire and leasing companies shows Mazda6 sales increased by 14 per cent in the first ten months of the year.

Mazda has also promised to deliver all fleet orders within 10-14 days under its ‘fleet vehicle sold order pot’ programme – a huge improvement on some manufacturers, who quote times of 12-14 weeks for their fleet models.

Korean manufacturer Kia has even loftier ambitions. According to Yaser Shabsogh, Kia’s Sales Director, the company wants fleet sales to take up 40 per cent of its business in the UK.

To achieve this, it has hired John Hargreaves as Head of Fleet and Remarketing and set him the target of 100,000 sales per year.

This will be helped considerably by the Kia Optima saloon, which will go on sale in the UK in 2011. Kia has worked on improving the perception of the brand as a low-quality budget car maker and the success of new models such as the Sportage and c’eed are testament to this change.

The fleet market in the UK now offers a vast array of cars, from the low-cost but high quality Kia models all the way up to the luxurious Jaguar XF.

With plenty to choose from, the only downside to fleet buyers and contract hire companies is picking the best model to suit their business.